Researchers from NASA and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are jointly developing a new nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system that would enable rockets or space vehicles to operate in cislunar space — the area beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, past the moon’s orbit.

The DARPA-led Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations project suggests that the possibilities enabled by nuclear propulsion include greater propellant efficiency, when compared with chemical rockets, and faster missions to Mars and the outer solar system, for example.

Source: DARPASource: DARPA

Likewise, the technology could potentially hasten military tactical advantages such as sending manned or unmanned vehicles to conduct surveillance missions beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, sending interceptors into space to destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or hypersonic weapons, conducting missile defense applications or achieving connectivity with satellite systems.

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